Live by the State, Die by the State

By Andy Battle

The Janus v. AFSCME decision has come down this morning. As expected, the right wing of the Supreme Court, bolstered by Donald Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch, has delivered a serious blow to public-sector unions like the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) by outlawing the agency fee on spurious First Amendment grounds.

What does Janus mean? As Celine McNicholas explains in this video, under current law unions must represent—in other words, spend money to defend—all workers in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether or not they choose to join the union. In a 1977 decision called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the US Supreme Court ruled that unions may charge non-members a fee to help cover these costs and to prevent non-members from “free riding,” or reaping the benefits of union membership while allowing their colleagues to pick up the tab. There is no question that non-members benefit from the union’s efforts on their behalf—indeed, unions raise wages not only for those covered by their agreements, but in wholly non-unionized sectors as well.

The Janus case represents an effort by a small number of wealthy, corporate-backed right-wing foundations to weaken public sector unions, which not only redistribute wealth by pressuring governments to pay their employees a living wage, but are a main source of financial and organizational support for Democratic Party politicians. As a follow-up, we should expect a well-financed campaign to convince PSC members, including adjuncts, to leave the union. Continue reading “Live by the State, Die by the State”

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SUNY UUP Leaders Sell Out CUNY Faculty on Adjunct Wages

In a move that portends badly for CUNY faculty, especially the growing corps of adjuncts battling for a living wage in the form of a $7,000 per course minimum, the governor and his appointees at SUNY, with the collusion of leaders of the so-called union there, have successfully held the line on wages, guaranteeing that the highest starting salary for any adjunct in the SUNY system will rise to a mere $3,750 per course in Fall 2022, the last year of the just-inked deal.

Here is how the pay raises break down. Full-time faculty will receive six two-percent raises—two of these will be retroactive for the years 2016 and 2017, when SUNY faculty worked without a contract (and during which time they have now effectively extended to the state an interest-free loan). They will then receive a two-percent raise each year through Fall 2021. These raises will not keep pace with the present rate of inflation, which stands at 2.46%—meaning it is possible United University Professions (UUP) leaders have negotiated an effective pay cut for their full-time faculty. Their only chance to break inflation will come in the form of a pool established for “discretionary” raises—the discretion belonging to management. Continue reading “SUNY UUP Leaders Sell Out CUNY Faculty on Adjunct Wages”

Academic Organizing: The Rank and File Perspective

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Singh brings the wisdom

On June 2nd, members of CUNY Struggle participated in a panel at this year’s Left Forum called “Rank-and-File Academic Organizing: Turning the Tide Against Austerity.” The panel, moderated by CUNY Struggle’s Jarrod Shanahan, featured rank-and-file organizers from New York City and beyond, including Sofya Aptekar (Faculty Staff Union, UMass-Boston), Camila Vergara (Graduate Workers of Columbia), Sonam Singh (Barnard Contingent Faculty) and Andy Battle (PSC-CUNY, CUNY Struggle). Continue reading “Academic Organizing: The Rank and File Perspective”

$7K or Strike Resolution Presented at Hunter College

32544032_1824121131216450_7540257486939357184_oOn May 16, 2018, members of CUNY Struggle presented the $7K or Strike resolution that passed at the Graduate Center to members of the Hunter College chapter of the PSC. The basic idea of the resolution is that we back up our central demand—that CUNY adjuncts, who teach a majority of courses at the university, be paid a living wage in the form of $7,000 per course—by being willing to go out on strike if it is not met by the university. We believe that adjunctification is at the center of the crises engulfing the university and that addressing it is in the interest of all faculty, even those who have been lucky enough to escape being caught in its grips. Moreover, we believe that past experience has shown that pressure short of direct action has little effect towards achieving our just demands, which are made not only in our own interests, but in those of the students to whom we have devoted our teaching lives. We were inspired by the example of teachers across the country and around the world, who are mounting a wave of strike actions that demonstrate and deploy the power we have as working people to shape education for the better.

In terms of the workforce, Hunter is a somewhat different landscape than the Graduate Center. The Graduate Center boasts a concentration of part time faculty, whether they be graduate assistants or students working as adjuncts trying to fund their degrees. It also has tenure-line faculty who are connected to adjuncts in the sense that many of their students and advisees do this kind of work. The Graduate Center also has a concentration of militants, many of whom are living and studying not only the adjunctification crisis but the history of working-class radicalism and social movements in the US and beyond. Hunter, on the other hand, has significant numbers of tenure-line faculty who can remain aloof to the adjunct struggle as long as the consequences for their individual lives and careers remain diffuse enough for them to fail to connect the dots between adjunctification, or the creation of a huge, highly-exploited and highly-vulnerable workforce, and the precipitous decrease in overall faculty power vis-à-vis administration about which so many of them rightly complain. Their position, like that of PSC leaders who have presided over declining real wages, worsening conditions, and deepened precarity, will become less tenable the longer we permit the adjunct crisis to define our work at the university. Continue reading “$7K or Strike Resolution Presented at Hunter College”

Rank-and-File Academic Organizing: Turning the Tide Against Austerity

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CUNY Struggle is honored to host a panel on rank-and-file university organizing with some great comrades at this year’s Left Forum. Join panelists Andy Battle (PSC-CUNY, CUNY Struggle), Sonam Singh (Barnard Contingent Faculty), Camila Vergara (Graduate Workers of Columbia), Sofya Aptekar (Faculty Staff Union, UMass Boston), and moderator Jarrod Shanahan (PSC-CUNY, CUNY Struggle) for a discussion of the struggles at these universities, where they connect, and how they figure into the unfolding rank-and-file movement of educators in the United States and beyond. We encourage everyone to come share your experiences as an educator, activist, student, or just a friend of the struggle against class society. We’ll keep presentations brief to allow as much time as possible for an open discussion. Let’s put our heads together and hatch an unstoppable conspiracy!

 

Saturday, June 2nd
10am
Room 1.71
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
899 10th Avenue, NYC
 

Barbara Bowen and the New Caucus Claim Another Stunning Victory!

BBoct30th07The results are in for the CUNY-wide PSC election, and CUNY Struggle congratulates the New Caucus on another landslide victory, cementing another three-year extension to their 18-year reign! President Bowen in particular earned a whopping 2,484 out of 2,541 cast (98%). Additionally, incoming Vice-President Andrea Vásquez won 2,396 out of 2,464 (97%); incumbent Secretary Nivedita Majumdar won 2,399 out of 2,452 (98%); and the Grad Center’s own hometown hero Luke Elliott-Negri coasted to a spot as university-wide officer with 2,227 votes! Although voter turnout is always low in PSC elections, rarely exceeding 30%, this year was especially low: only 12% of eligible voters made their voices heard!

Now, we at CUNY Struggle have been pretty hard on the New Caucus in the past. We’ve called them, among other things, a hackneyed political machine strangling every last ounce of democracy out of the PSC while masking their authoritarianism in the shopworn jargon of social justice magnetic poetry. But even as tough critics, we must concede that this election was a hard-won model of union democracy in action. Though President Bowen and her comrades didn’t have to work quite as hard as, say, Vladimir Putin, who recently won re-election with only 77%, there was nonetheless some stiff competition! Let’s take a look at the rest of the field.

Second place for president, coming in with 3 votes, was a tie between write-in votes for NC luminary and former Vice-President Michael Fabricant, and write-in votes for… Barbara Bowen! At third place, with 2 votes, was “anyone else”. Still a respectable showing! And after that, the field got even more exciting: coming in tied at 1 vote apiece, Mickey Mouse was locked in a dead heat with “NEVER!!!!!!!!! BOWEN!!!!”, “Please God, not Barbara again”, “NOTA”, “none”, “This election is a sham”, “New Blood”, Bernie Sanders, and CUNY Struggle’s own Wilson Sherwin! Congratulations Wilson! Continue reading “Barbara Bowen and the New Caucus Claim Another Stunning Victory!”

CUNY Rank-and-Filers Take the Lead: Graduate Center PSC Endorses “7k or Strike!”

IMG_8486The people have spoken! Today the Graduate Center chapter of PSC-CUNY overwhelmingly endorsed a CUNY-wide strike if adjuncts do not win $7k/course in the coming PSC contract. Over one hundred GC chapter members and CUNY workers from across the system packed the room to capacity. It was the largest turnout we’ve seen since the chapter’s founding. We ran out of chairs, and members spilled into the hallway. Many who had never attended a PSC meeting came to deliver a simple message: The time for $7k is now. Not the contract after this one, or the one after that. Not next time. This time!

It’s not just a critical moment for CUNY. Members testified to the powerful example set by striking teachers across the country, part of what GC chapter member Frances Fox Piven called a “movement of educators,” in her remarks endorsing the resolution. In the context of this national movement, equivocating amendments to the resolution proposed by chapter leadershipwhich “watered it down” with generic wiggle words, as one member put itseemed hopelessly tone deaf. These amendments were struck down almost unanimously, amid groans and jeers. The message from the rank-and-file was as clear as it was overdue: equivocation and half measures will no longer be tolerated. Continue reading “CUNY Rank-and-Filers Take the Lead: Graduate Center PSC Endorses “7k or Strike!””